UK savers collectively put away £100bn last year, due to many people’s expenses being cut from the effects of the coronavirus lockdowns, according to the Bank of England.
With costs for commuting, eating out, going to the pub, the gym, or anywhere other than the supermarket no longer coming out of their bank accounts, a lot of savers have found they’ve saved far more than usual during lockdown periods.
Despite the economy starting to open up again, more than a third of people want to continue their regular savings habits, according to a recent survey from Coventry Building Society. But, with more temptations to spend, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to pay for the things you enjoy without sacrificing your healthy savings stash – we think it is.
Here, Which? suggests seven tips and tricks for continuing your savings habits as lockdown starts to lift.
1. Make saving a regular habit
If you’re not used to moving your money around and haven’t thought much about saving before, it might seem like a lot of effort at first. You’ll need to think about how much you can spare, where you want to save it and how often.
But the more you make an effort to put money aside on a regular basis, the more likely it will become a habit – something that’s second nature that you hardly have to think about.
Whether you decide to move your savings once a month, once a week or several times a week, try to make it a regular thing you can stick to – perhaps set some alerts or reminders on your phone if you’re likely to forget.
Opening a regular saver is also an option; these accounts require a certain amount to be paid in each month and can offer higher rates than instant-access accounts – however, they can also come with a lot of caveats, so make sure you’re aware of the terms before you commit to one.
2. Move money on payday
If you know how much money you can feasibly save, it’s a good idea to move it out of your current account as soon as it comes in – that way, you won’t miss it, or be as tempted to spend it.
As long as you’ve got a handle on your essential spending, this method can work whether you’re paid monthly, weekly or outside of a regular schedule – for example, if you’re a freelancer and get paid per project.
If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll need the money before you next get paid, keep it in an instant-access account that doesn’t have any withdrawal limits – that way, you can access it whenever you like, but you’ll still be less likely to spend it frivolously.
3. Set a budgeting ratio
If you’re not quite sure what you should be aiming to spend and save each month, investment firm Nutmeg has come up with a simple ratio you can try to stick to – 50:20:30.
This suggests keeping 50% of your pay for necessities like bills and food, putting 20% into savings and then using the remaining 30% for what it calls ‘lifestyle choices’ – be that going out to restaurants, your gym membership and other more fun things.
By allocating a set amount to save, while also making sure you don’t have to miss out on the things you like to do, you might be more likely to stick to a savings habit for the long-term.
4. Use a budgeting app
If the budget ratio above doesn’t quite work for your circumstances, or you want something more in-depth – such as the ability to set a budget for every kind of spending category – a budgeting app might be able to help.
There are lots out there; some use open banking technology so you can link your bank accounts and credit cards for a full view of your finances, offering up advice on where you could make further changes or savings you might not have thought of. This could be getting rid of needless subscriptions, or suggestions to switch to cheaper mobile phone or energy tariffs to free up more money each month.
- Find out more: open banking budgeting apps
5. Consider saving your round-ups
The idea of using round-ups to boost your savings is supposed to help you put a little money away on a regular basis, slowly building up without you really noticing.
It works by rounding up your transactions to the nearest full pound – so, if you buy a coffee for £2.50, the round-up would make that transaction £3, putting the extra 50p into your savings.
Some banking apps can do this for you automatically, but you can also do it yourself – in the evenings, or once a week, for instance – by totting up the round-ups from what you’ve spent and moving that money into a savings pot or account.
6. Try a savings challenge
There are lots of savings challenges around, which involve saving a little each day or each week over the course of a few months or a year – which can be good if you’re saving for a particular goal, such as Christmas or a holiday.
Ones we’ve heard of include the 1p challenge, where you start on 1 January saving 1p, then 2 January you save 2p, all the way until 31 December when you save £3.65 for the day – if you leave your savings alone all year you’ll end up with well over £600. Alternatively, you could reverse this, and start the year saving £3.65.
Then there are weekly challenges; committing to saving £10 a week will give you £520 by the end of the year, or if you can spare £20 a week you’ll end up with more than £1,000.
Again, some banking apps can automate these challenges, sending your cash to a savings account for you. But it’s just as easy to do it yourself – either moving the money into a savings account online, or using the old-fashioned way of putting coins or notes into a piggy bank.
- Find out more: 50 ways to save money
7. Make sure your savings get a competitive rate
It’s likely that you won’t be able to save to the same extent as you could during full lockdown – and that’s a good thing, as it means you can do more of what you like – but if you’re not putting as much money away then it’s important to make sure your saved cash is working as hard as possible.
While savings rates aren’t great at the moment – to put it mildly – there’s no reason to settle for an account that pays just 0.01% AER – there are plenty out there that can do far better than that, particularly if you’re willing to lock your money away for a fixed-term.
You can search through hundreds of savings accounts and cash Isas with Which? Money Compare.
- Find out more: how to find the best savings account